Early Bloomers - Flowering Quince & Forsythia

Although one of my 2013 New Year's resolutions was to become more active, I had not started doing too much in the way of dedicated exercise until last weekend.  Yes, I know, I'm six weeks late as it is mid-February!

At any rate, my boyfriend, Mike, and I decided to take a Saturday morning walk in the neighborhood to kick-start our hopefully "routine" fitness routine.  It was quite gray and chilly here in North Texas, but the brisk walk was well worth it for reasons more than just the physical.  Our senses were enveloped by the serenity of the late winter landscape. 

Among the peaceful yet barren suburban yards, every so often we would see snippets of salmon-colored buds or bright golden bells.  These flowering buds were without the typical background of green leaves as they were borne on winter bare limbs.

I'm speaking of Flowering Quince and Forsythia - very early bloomers of the coming season. Crocus, Hyacinth and Jonquils are early bloomers as well, but considering Flowering Quince and Forsythia are shrubs - it is indeed a surprise to see them flowering when temperatures have been steadily cold.

Autumn Sage & Flowering Quince in Carrollton, TX   Feb 2013
(Both of these shrubs are straggly by nature and thus, are good companions.)

Forsythia in Carrollton, TX   Feb 2013


                                                          Hyacinth & Jonquils in Carrollton, TX  Feb 2013

Flowering Quince and Forsythia share many attributes in addition to their simultaneously early blooming times.  Both shrubs are hardy from Zones 5 - 8, with some of each seen stretching to Zones 4 and 9 on occasion. They are deciduous and can be planted in part shade to full sun, however, the more sun they receive the more abundant and vibrant their flowers will be.  Both may be planted in a variety of soil types, i.e. sand, clay or loam, as long as drainage isn't a problem.  However, they each will benefit from a supplement of peat or landscape mix now and then as they tend to grow stronger in nuetral to slightly acidic environments.   Flowering Quince and Forsythia are relatively fast growing and typically reach 6 feet in height at maturity but both can grow up to 10 ft in height and 8-10 ft in width if not pruned.  Speaking of pruning, these shrubs should be pruned after they bloom as the next year's buds will appear on the matured wood.  If you wait to tidy them up in late fall or winter, you will diminish the blooms of the following spring.  Blooms occur on these shrubs prior to leaves appearing.  Unfortunately, another common trait among the two is their vibrant flowers only last about two weeks - just long enough to provide us an "appetizer" for the coming warm weather!

Now, for a few differences: 

While both Flowering Quince and Forsythia are considered informal, irregular shrubs, Forsythia is the more attractive of the two after its leaves begin to appear.  It is often utilized in landscapes as a specimen plant. Quince, on the other hand, has been described as having a tangled, spindly appearance - even after having leaved out.  Except for new and improved cultivars, Flowering Quince also produces large thorns.  As such, Quince is best situated in either an out of the way location or, in contrast, as a barrier shrub.  

Forsythia produces bell shaped flowers in varying shades of one color - yellow. Flowering Quince, on the other hand, produces cup-like flowers in multiple colors - red, pink, salmon, orange or white. 

Unlike Flowering Quince, Forsythia may add color interest to your landscape in the fall months as well as in spring.  Several varieties of Forsythia produce leaves that turn deep purple to bronze in autumn, before ultimately shedding them.  

With regard to their history and uses, both Flowering Quince and Forsythia shrubs are usually found in rural areas and mature urban/suburban yards. In past times, the small fruit of Flowering Quince was used for jellies when apples or other fruit was scarce.  Forsythia's fruit is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine to detoxify the body and treat fevers, among other things. Keep in mind today's cultivars are ever-changing and it is always recommended to consult a licensed health care provider before eating any unusual plant or taking any herbal remedy. 

In conclusion, as you begin to notice trees, shrubs and flowers budding out in your landscape this spring, you might consider one of these two shrubs for that odd, difficult location in your yard in which you haven't found anything to thrive.  Considering Flowering Quince and Forsythia are perennial, they are moderate growers, they can be pruned or left natural, they grow well in most soil types (except bogs) and they tolerate a wide range of sunlight conditions, one or both of these shrubs may be just what you are looking for.  Needless to say, their adaptability is one of their best shared characteristics. 

And while they may not be among the most glamorous shrubs in the landscape throughout the year, they certainly make a spectacular first impression!

Until next time,


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